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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY

FROM THE LIGRARY OF
ERNEST LEWIS GAY

JUNE 15, 1927

INTRODUCTION.

PUBLIC curiosity, almost ever since the first establishment of a Theatre in this country, has demanded some account of the lives and characters of its eminent professors. Men, who have been so much “ the brief abstract and chronicles of the times,” acquire popular favour, both from the entertainment and utility they afford; for, as they are generally not inattentive observers of mankind, and represent them under all their several designations, their own characters are supposed to bear some distinguished impression. Our affections often keep pace with our curiosity; and the person who has improved and amused uş for a great number of years, we respect whilst living, and remember with a melancholy pleasure when he is no more.

Toine

Upon this principle it is we introduce to the public, Memoirs of the late Charles Macklin,

and

and of the age in which he lived; a man who is not only entitled to our notice from his being in the first line of theatrical eminence, but from his being, for many years before his death, the Nestor of the Stage. His character still gains on our curiosity, when we consider, that this man raised himself to the top of his profession from almost the bottom of society, with little aid from parental protection, without the ordinary means of support, and almost without any other instruction, than what the native energies of his mind stimulated him to obtain.

We have, however, to regret, that a complete life of this value, and this extent, was not given by himself. A regular history of the Stage has long been a desideratum amongst all those who are scientific amateurs of the profession; and though this could not have been fully expected from Macklin, much assistance towards a work of this kind might have been given by him. A man who had touched the extremities of two centuries, and was very nearly entering on his third, must have possessed a yolume of events,

, rarely the lot of an individual; and as his ac

quaintance

quaintance with the Stage had just preceded the retirement of Cibber, he could have, from tradition, informed us of its usages and customs since the beginning of the last century; the professional and private characters of the principal performers; the talents and estimation in which the dramatic writers were held, with their characters, &c. the number, temper, and acumen, of the several audiences; together with the progressive manners of the age operating on the whole,

Such a history would have been entertaining and serviceable; and such (in a great degree) could have been given by Macklin, had he begun to lay in materials in time. He was often instigated to it by his friends, under all the temptations of the first literary assistance, and the offer of a liberal subscription; and he as often promised he would undertake it; but, from a long conti: nuance of life and good health, he calculated too much on the permanency of both: his answer ge. nerally was, somewhat like the excuses of the old man to Charon in Lucian's Dialogues; “ That he had a law-suit to get rid of, a Comedy to finish, or some things to set in order, before he could

bring bring his mind composedly to such a work."But then, (said he, raising his voice,) when these are accomplished, by G-, I'll set about it.”

He at the same time would lament the want of manuscripts which he once had for this undertaking, and which were unfortunately lost in his passage from Holyhead to Dublin 'many years back: but then he added, “Even this loss shall not prevent me: it is the wish of my friends; it is: my own wish; and I have materials enough left to shew the world, that if I have lived long, I have not lived altogether idly, or unprofitably." But those who know the human heart, know that such resolutions only shewed he was the dupe of his own irresolution. He had not courage sufficient to undertake a work of so much labour and retrospection; he therefore deceived himself, by putting off to the next year, what he found a difficulty in doing then. This procrastination, therefore, annually continued, till his memory began to fail him; and then it was in vain to solicit for what Nature said " could not be ob. tained.”

The

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